If you turn to page 139 in Miles Wilk’s book, Australian Football Clubs in NSW, you read about a player who played with the South Melbourne Club in 1935-36 who was recruited from the Parkes Rugby League Club.
You have to ask if there’s got to be more to it than that.
Well in 1934 a young Rugby League player from Parkes, New South Wales, took himself to Melbourne with the intention of trying out for the South Melbourne team. An ankle injury put paid to his chances so he returned to play the season out with the Parkes Rugby League Club.
His name was Jim Reid and back with the Blacks where he had played at either fullback or in the centres for the previous two years. In 1934 Reid played against the visiting Balmain team so at 19 he was pretty well entrenched in the club.
However come the following year Reid again made the trip to Melbourne to try out with South.
Now I guess you have to ask yourself why would this young man persist in his attempt to break into the VFL ranks when coming from a Rugby League background?
His mother and father were both from Western Australia. Unusual at the time but by 1930 found them in William Street East Sydney operating a newsagency. In fact just near the real estate premises of a former president of the NSW League, William Butler.
This was a strange move for someone who had been a railway worker then to run a newsagency or paper shop as it was called in those days, then later to manage brewery owned country pubs, and all this on the other side of the country.
Well, not that much later from his newsagency position, Jim’s father took over the license of a hotel at a Lake Cargelligo, NSW and of course brought his 17 year old son with him. Then by the early 1930s the family was in Parkes and dad the licensee of the Royal Hotel.
This is interesting because although a 1935 Melbourne newspaper article, supposedly written by Jim Reid the footballer, says his family left Perth or Western Australia to settle in Adelaide for a period of time then onto Parkes, there is no mention of his time in Sydney.
His father also named Jim, has an interesting history. He was born in South Australia in 1884 and his footballer son said that his father had played for both Port Adelaide and ‘Fremantle’, facts we were unable to verify but we did find his father had served in WWI.
Young Jim also said he played on the wing with the South Australian Schoolboys team in the national carnival held in Melbourne in 1924; this would have made him 11. Well that year the carnival was played in Sydney and no trace can be found of him ever representing South Australia in a schoolboys carnival. We also checked the 1926 South Australian Schoolboys team that did play in Melbourne to no avail.
Regardless, Jim was also good at cricket both as a wicket keeper and batsman and said he played in several representative teams.
It became obvious that this young fellow was a talented sportsman and in 1935 the Sporting Globe said of him: “Jim Reid, the South Melbourne wing player has burst onto League football with a bang and surprised all the critics. Formerly a Rugby player from Parkes, N.S.W. he felt that he would like to play the Australian game … Gordon Rattray, a former Fitzroy captain “bracketed him with Austin Roberston as the best man afield against Hawthorn”. Another 1935 Sporting Globe article said “this season finds him more than holding his own with the best flanks in the game.”
His speed on the ground was quite often quoted. He played on the wing with South and at one stage was said the be the fastest man in the game. He is pictured here in the 1936 South Melbourne team at far right in the back row. We thanks the State Library of Victoria for use of the image.
At the end of the 1935 season Reid said because he had no work he was returning to play Rugby and was sure he would be picked up by one of the Sydney clubs. He also suggested he could quite easily claim a spot in the Australian side which was set to tour the UK. He told the press he was offered the job as coach of the Parkes Rugby League team at £4 ($370 today) a week and this was 12 months after the club said they had received 100 applications for the position.
While newspaper articles carried the story, it was probably only a ruse to find him a job. It worked, and he was quickly offered three positions – and this was deep in the time of the 1930s depression. He took a job as a driver of an ice wagon.
In 1936 he again turned out for South playing seventeen of their twenty one games. It was in this year, for the second successive season they were runner-up to Collingwood for the flag.
By this time his parents had moved from the Club House Hotel at Eugowra to another brewery pub, the Federal at Wallendbeen (near Harden). His father by now was in his early fifties and a move back to Perth was on the drawing board. He purchased or got himself a job in a newsagency in the Western Australian capital.
Young Jim also decided to make the move west and joined his family at the Agett Street Claremont address. At 23 he had played 35 games for South Melbourne.
He signed with the Claremont Club and applied for a clearance. Although he had completed the then compulsory 3 month residential qualification and said he had told at least three officials from the South Melbourne Club of his intention, his clearance was refused.
Following repeated requests South finally cleared Reid, with conditions. Reid lived up to his reputation as a “speed merchant” helping Claremont to three successive premierships in 1938-40. He missed selection in the 1939 team because of injury.
Reid was the club’s best and fairest in 1939-40 and also vice-captain of the team in 1940. He represented Western Australia in the 1937 Carnival.
By 1941 WWII was well and truly underway and he enlisted in the army. By this time too he was married. Reid Remained in the services until his discharge in October 1945.
At 32 he made a comeback for Claremont whilst still in the army. He was keen to get back in the saddle but his club were not what they were before the war. He saw the season out and managed a handful of games the following year after which he retired. He was made a life member of Claremont in 1946.
In 1948 he played with Boulder in the Goldfields League. Used as a goalsneak he booted 52 goals in seven games. He returned to Perth where he became football coach at his local police boys club and was noted about the same time hitting a quick century for the Claremont Cricket Club.
Reid died in 1983 aged 70.